Global Sustainability Panel Receives Input on SIDS
16 March 2011: An Interactive Dialogue between the UN General Assembly (UNGA) and the UN Secretary-General's High-level Panel on Global Sustainability (GSP) took place on 16 March 2011, in New York, US.
After an update from the Co-Chairs on the second meeting of the GSP, speakers on behalf of small island States emphasized the urgency of concrete action and the importance of marine resources. Other speakers said the problems and solutions are known, and asked the Panel for concrete recommendations for action.
UNGA President Joseph Deiss said recent General Assembly meetings on biodiversity, small island developing States (SIDS) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have revealed a common key message: firm political commitment and resolute action are needed to effectively tackle the interlinked challenges of climate change and poverty eradication and to ensure adequate financing, capacity-building, technology transfer and multi-stakeholder partnership.
The Co-Chairs of the GSP – Tarja Halonen, President of Finland, and Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa – reported on the Panel's second meeting, which took place in Cape Town, South Africa, from 24-25 February 2011. They said the Panel had considered four broad goals: to eradicate poverty, reduce inequality and enhance social justice; to shift to sustainable consumption and production (SCP) and inclusive growth, with job creation; to manage scarcity, common goods and ecosystems with respect to planetary boundaries; and to enhance security, broadly. They said means to achieve these goals would include: markets and finance; governance; technology; and gender equality and empowerment of women. The Panel also agreed that: more needs to be done to create an enabling environment for implementing decisions; combating poverty and inequality will be at the core of its recommended actions; and its overall goal is to make a substantive contribution to goal of “eradicating poverty and reducing inequality, making growth inclusive, and consumption and production more sustainable while combating climate change and respecting the range of other planetary boundaries."
Panel member Cristina Narbona Ruiz, Spanish Ambassador to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), said the current economic paradigm is primarily responsible for climate change, biodiversity loss and air, soil and water pollution. She noted that marine biodiversity is a prerequisite for many of the MDGs.
Papua New Guinea, on behalf of the Pacific SIDS, commended the Panel's focus on implementation of existing commitments, noting that since their establishment, SIDS' vulnerabilities only have been further entrenched. The representative said a new vision for sustainable development must encompass a blue economy – the conservation, sustainable management and equitable sharing of marine and ocean resources. The group hoped the concept of a blue economy would be prominent in the Panel's final report. It also noted the need to take action on climate change, since there could be no sustainable development "if your existence is in jeopardy."
Fiji, on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), said the 1992 recognition of SIDS as a "special case" had accomplished little in the absence of a supportive international environment for implementation. Therefore, the GSP report must contain practical, actionable steps to improve implementation of the existing “blueprints” – the Brundtland report, Agenda 21, Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPoI), Barbados Progamme of Action (BPoA), and the Mauritius Strategy for Implementation (MSI). On the blue economy, AOSIS called for “measurable and specific commitments.” It also called for action on improving the technical capabilities of islands, and for a sustainability indicator other than gross domestic product (GDP).
Barbados, on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said “time is not on our side” and urged the Panel to transmit an unambiguous message on the global consensus to act urgently. Barbados noted that many CARICOM countries have a basis for a green transition, in the form of policies, strategies and plans, and the region has made progress on a single market economy, while the Association of Caribbean States has taken steps for protecting the Caribbean Sea. The representative said such national and regional action could realize benefits of sustainable development, but needs a supportive international environment, including transfer of resoures to developing countries and systematic reforms to provide a greater voice for developing countries in decision-making at the international level.
Australia noted that its minister of foreign affairs, Kevin Rudd, a member of the GSP, had put forward a three-part plan for consideration by the Panel. It outlines core challenges, core goals and core means. Australia also echoed the Pacific SIDS' message that the need for a green economy “really means a blue economy."
WWF International asked the GSP to produce “visionary and concrete goals” such as a commitment to end overfishing. A specific recommendation could include addressing perversities regarding subsidies that support fossil fuels and overfishing.
In response to comments, Halonen affirmed that the Panel shared the concern about implementation of existing, common views on sustainability, including that climate change is not the only concern and that a blue economy must receive attention as well.
The GSP will hold its third meeting (GSP 3) in mid-May in Helsinki, Finland, followed by GSP 4 in September in New York, US, and GSP 5 at the end of 2011. [Webcast of Dialogue] [Statement of UNGA President] [Statement of Halonen] [Statement of Narbona Ruiz]